Chemical Peels for Acne

Chemical peeling is never a first choice procedure in the treatment of acne scars. Once all the conservative methods of treating acne have been exhausted, chemical peeling is selected. It is another invasive method of treating acne scars. Although no single treatment is best for everyone, an acne chemical peel may provide effective treatment for some patients with superficial and deep acne scars.

What Is an Acne Chemical Peel?

A chemical peel basically peels off the damaged skin and over time there is hopefully growth of newer finer and smoother skin. The chemical is applied to the skin and causes a blistering reaction which causes the skin to peel over the next few days. With time, this scarred skin is replaced by more healthy and fresh looking skin.

There are several chemicals used as skin peeling agents. These are:

Alphahydroxy acid (AHA) or glycolic acid peels: These are the least damaging to the skin and also the most gentle. They only work for the most superficial scars and the treatment has to be continued to maintain the cosmetic results.

Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) peels: These chemicals are slightly stronger and work well for mild to moderate scarring. TCA peel may be able to resurface the treated skin enough to eliminate the appearance of acne scars. However, many individuals are unable to tolerate the higher concentrations.

Phenol peels. Phenol peels are the strongest. Phenol is also very unpleasant and irritating to the skin. Most individuals reject phenol because of its potent side effects.

Who should undergo chemical peeling?

The best candidates for acne chemical peel treatments are those with superficial acne or acne scars. Individuals with severe or very active acne may not be good candidates for acne chemical peels. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not undergo chemical peeling.

Side effects of chemical peeling

Irrespective of the peeling agent, some side effects are common. These temporary side effects include:

- Redness

- Skin Dryness

- Flaking of skin

- Scaling

- Swelling is more common with the stronger agents like phenol. Phenol can cause severe swelling to close off the eyes. This may last a few days

- Pain or a burning sensation

- scarring

The swelling and discomfort of a TCA chemical peel subsides within 7-10 days. After a period of 1-2 weeks, most individuals can return to work and resume their normal daily activities.

Long-Term Results

The results after chemical peeling are generally okay. With the mild acids, home care is performed as some acne scars may require repeat treatment to maintain the cosmetic effects. With the stronger acids, a smoother and fresher skin is possible but the results are not always guaranteed. Stronger acids provide a good result for up to 2-3 months.

To prevent skin discoloration after chemical peeling, the new skin must be protected from sunlight.

Phenol is a strong chemical peeling agent and if one can tolerate the severe redness and facial swelling which occurs, the aesthetic appearance can last for several years. However, the chemical is potent and has a tendency to cause severe skin reactions.

Who does chemical peeling?

Chemical peeling is done all over the country by both physicians and non physicians. Some States require that strong acids can only be used by physicians. To avoid any complications and injury, seek a board certified physician who specializes in cosmetic or skin disorders.

The cost is variable and depends on the depth of the peel and frequency of treatments needed. Cost per peel can range from hundreds to a thousand dollars.

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